Top 10 tips for travelling with kids

“Are we there yet?” “Can I have another biscuit?” “I need to go to the toilet”

Travelling with kids can be great fun as you explore the world together experiencing new people and places, seeing their eyes light up with amazement at incredible new delights. It can also be a rather stressful experience, as minis can get tired and irritable quickly, especially on long journeys.


Our fabulous friend Sally recently travelled to New Zealand with her 3 children under 3 1/2. She had very little experience of long distance journeys prior to this, with the longest trip with all 3 of her daughters being a 2-hour drive to Kent. So there she was, faced with the joy of a 36-hour journey (including 3 separate flights) and no idea how to plan for it.

After much thought, time and effort, Sally set off on her mission to get all three girls sorted for the many days of travelling ahead. Here are her top 10 tips for travelling with kids…

Have a Plan – it might sound obvious, but thinking about your journey, how long it will take you, where you will be at key times like meal times, sleep times, what your minis will eat and drink on the move to keep them happy including snacks (you can never have enough snacks!), what toys and games they will enjoy – having a plan can help your journey run more smoothly and avoid tired, hungry, irritable minis. I found it really helpful to make a rough timetable of what I thought we would be doing and when, (based on our usual routine) especially since we were travelling across time zones which makes it easy to lose track of time.

journey planAnd remember: don’t feel you have to stick to your plan if it’s not working – be prepared to be flexible and go with the flow if it makes life a little easier.

Food and snacks – eating on the move can be challenging, especially with little ones, so having lots of food which is easy to carry and easy to eat can take the stress out of meal times. I stocked up on sweet and savoury pouches which are easy to transport and perfect for on the move. Rice cakes, biscuits and bread sticks were life savers in between meals and raisins in little boxes, little bags of popcorn, jelly babies and mini milk bottles all provided a novelty factor when the girls needed distracting. They are also great for chewing during flight take off and landing to avoid little ears getting blocked.

IMG_2914And remember: if you have space, take beakers, cutlery, bowls etc that they use at home every day – we found this helped the girls settle in less familiar surroundings.

Baby Milk – my twin girls still drink milk in the morning and at bedtime, so I wanted to make sure we had enough milk for them to last the journey. You can buy ‘ready to drink’ formula in bottles and cartons which really are a life saver. The last thing you want to be doing is trying to mix milk powder and water together whilst on the move. Whilst more expensive, the ready to drink milk really is worth the extra cost for the convenience of just being able to pour it out whenever you need it. I took 4×1 litre bottles in our hand luggage and we had no problem taking them on the plane (and the twins drank the lot!!). I would suggest always taking more formula than you think you will need, so you have extra for those times when they need calming down. We found it worked really well during flight take off and landing with equalising pressure in little ears – wait until you’re taxing down the run way or it can be gone before you’re in the sky.


An additional tip: Instead of having to buy formula milk ahead of the journey, you can pre-order it at Boots and collect it in the terminal once you have passed through airport security. This definitely takes the stress out of worrying whether you will be let through with it all. It also avoids having to open and waste any when made to taste it. In addition, if travelling within Europe Boots now offer a European delivery service via Boots International here which means you can pre-order all of your baby essentials to be delivered to your holiday destination.

Entertainment – we decided that the best thing to keep our 3 year old entertained on the journey would be an iPad uploaded with lots of exciting new apps – how wrong we were! In reality some of the new apps proved to be a source of frustration (since they took a while to get used to) and with some apps we hadn’t always downloaded the full content, so just as our 3 year old was getting into it, a message would appear saying we needed to download some more, which at 30,000 feet in the air wasn’t always practical. The good news is that by the time we travelled home the new apps were tried and tested and many had become firm favourites. We love AniMatch (animal pairs and sounds matching game) which is great fun for mummies and minis; Doodlecast (a cool drawing and voice recording app); ‘Jack & the Beanstalk’ (an interactive story with games along the way by Nosy Crow) plus ‘Kids’ Puzzles’ (a must for all jigsaw loving minis) for keeping our 3 year old entertained. ‘BalloonPop’ and ‘Peekaboo Party’ were great for our younger girls.

IMG_0052If you are going on a plane for any length of time, it is well worth investing in some kids headphones for the journey that are small enough to fit them properly. The airlines provide headphones, but they are designed for adults so tend to fall off little heads. The kids headphones proved to be a lifesaver for us since all 3 of our minis loved watching movies on the flight, even if at times the 18 month old twins had had enough of wearing the headphones, they were happy just being entertained by the images on the screen without the sound. There are many different brands of children’s headphones you can buy, we opted for these from Maxell ‘Kids Safe’ which are really small, lightweight (to wear and carry) and have volume level protection (since we were conscious of little ear drums).IMG_1930oliviaheadFor the car we made sure we had lots of music we knew they liked on our phones, so that we could all singalong to familiar tunes to pass the time. ‘My First Disney Album’ is a great one full of well known tunes for all the family to sing along to.

And remember: much as it sounds obvious, it’s worth trying out anything new before you travel, so that you know how it works and can avoid a frustrated mini part way through the journey!

Fun and Games – something that is fun to organise in advance of the journey is to buy lots of little items for your minis, (based on what you know they will like), and wrap them up so that you have a ‘bag of presents’ and can make a big thing of unwrapping a present every hour (or every other hour), depending on the length of your journey. This can create lots of excitement and act as an incentive for good behaviour. I really enjoyed hunting for fun, little (because you don’t want the bag of presents to fill a whole suitcase), items that I thought the girls would enjoy on the plane. Finding things which would interest them and at the same time keep them occupied in a confined space, without making a mess, proved to be a bit of challenge but well worth the effort since it really helped to make the journey fun and it was great to be able to pull out a present to distract them just as they were on the verge of a meltdown.PicMonkey CollageAnything magnetic is good since it stays connected whilst on the move – our girls love the Melissa and Doug magnetic dressing up dolls (which we took without the packaging). Drawing with water pens is also a fantastic way to encourage your minis to be creative, whilst being mess free. Galt have some lovely ‘water magic’ colouring books and Crayola have some great ‘color wonder’ books with ‘magic pens’. Sticker activity books are another good way to occupy your mini, Bloomsbury have a wonderful range to choose from and Paperchase always have some interesting things – the girls particularly love their note pads and finger tattoos. You can also make an activity throughout the holiday of keeping a travel journal which captures memorable moments and becomes a keepsake when you get home.

And remember: it’s worth labelling everything to help you remember what’s inside. And don’t forget to save some toys and games for the journey home.

If you have slightly nervous flyers on your hands, then a great game you can play is to give the plane a name before you fly. It really helps minis feel safe and that ‘Max’ will look after them in the sky. You can talk about his friends and family (who are all the other planes at the airport or out flying for the day) – it makes the plane seem real and childlike, instead of a strange thing.

Hand luggage – another thing that is fun to do before you go away is to give your mini the challenge of filling a small piece of hand luggage with items of their choice for the journey. We found this helps to get them in the holiday mood and gives them a job (which always seems to go down well with our 3 year old). We bought a little pull along case for Olivia and made her responsible for deciding what teddies, toys and games to take with her (with a little help from mummy). Having a few favourite bunnies to cuddle and toys to play with really helped her to settle in unfamiliar surroundings, especially on the plane.

IMG_2835oliviaowlbagAnother alternative is a mini back pack for little ones which is lightweight and easy for them to carry on their own. There are lots of cool brands on the market right now, see our Backpacks for Kids Edit.

And remember: take a photo on your phone of what’s inside so you can easily remember what you have brought with you and it means you are less likely to leave anything behind.

Clothes and ‘stuff’ for the journey – it’s worth spending a bit of time thinking about what clothes you will need for the journey based on how long your journey is, the time of day you will be travelling, any change of temperature/climate if you are flying to another country, plus having spare clothes in case of any accidents. We were travelling for 36 hours so we knew the girls would be sleeping for part of the journey (or at least we hoped they would be!). Changing little ones into their pyjamas helps to keep them in their routine, even if they are sleeping sitting up in a car or on a plane. For the babies we also took their sleeping bags to help them feel comfortable since it is what they were used to at home. They were great for keeping them warm on the plane, since the last thing we wanted was for them to wake up because they were cold.

clothesI would also recommend taking some Calpol with you just in case you need it on the journey. The sachets are perfect for travelling and avoid having to take a whole bottle with you. I gave some to all 3 girls just before take off to help with any air pressure in their ears. Take lots of wipes (more than you think you will need) since the last thing you want to do is run out. Also take some anti-bacterial hand gel which is great for keeping little hands clean on the move.

We also took a flannel and a towel in our hand luggage and were so happy we had them and didn’t have to attempt to wash a sick little one with a combination of paper towels and tissues from the aeroplane toilet cubicles.

And remember: take a change of clothes for yourself – there’s nothing worse than your child being sick all over you and not having any clean clothes to change into. During our journey it happened twice to us and I cannot tell you how good it felt to know we had fresh clothes to put on.

Making friends – one of the biggest challenges we found in travelling for so long with 3 little ones was that we simply had no break and at times on the flight the people around us were causing us more stress than our girls. We were ever so conscious of not disturbing everybody else. However friendly or shy you are as a general rule, we found it helpful just to smile at everyone in our vicinity – it breaks the ice and you get to see who smiles back.

Other parents are a great source of support when you are walking up and down the aisles at 3am with a mini who is still mesmerised by the cabin lighting and just won’t fall asleep! Often just a smile or an ‘I know the feeling…’ kind of look can make all the difference when you are feeling exhausted and running out of options to induce sleep. If anyone offers to help you then my advice is to accept their help (as long as you feel comfortable with them) since people rarely offer again. Help can come from the most unlikely sources so keep your eyes open for people who make eye contact with you and give you a sympathetic look or smile. We found a young French guy next to us on the plane who was unexpectedly sweet and supportive, plus an elderly businessman I had chatted to earlier in the queue for the toilet, who I literally thrust one of the twins at at around 4am as he walked by, when the other twin was being sick and the 3 year old was crying and desperate for the toilet! She instantly fell asleep on him whilst I changed all of us and cleared up the sick. He was an absolute lifesaver and so kind, I nearly cried with relief.


And remember: please don’t feel you have to struggle on your own. The airport and airline staff are all trained in customer service and we found most of them were happy to help a family in need – even going through airport security the girls were entertained by a fabulous lady demonstrating her tool box to them.

Ask the airline – admittedly we were outnumbered with 3 toddlers and only 2 adults, so I’m sure at times people took pity on us, but we hadn’t realised what was available to us. For example, buggies for babies and toddlers are provided at the airport for flight changeovers (red McLarens at Dubai airport). The airline were also happy to transport us from one terminal to another at Sydney in one of their golf buggies, (which we discovered by accident) and it was a life saver when faced with a 20 minute walk with 3 tired toddlers (one still not able to walk) and 5 items of hand luggage between the 2 of us.

And remember: if you don’t ask you don’t know what you’re missing. We found airline staff extremely helpful in holding a child or luggage as we got on and off the plane.


Relax and enjoy your time together – finally it might sound silly, but it can be all too easy to let yourself get stressed by something small and forget to enjoy the overall experience. I find this happens to me and I gave myself a bit of a talking to before we left home to remind myself to try to relax more whilst we were away and just enjoy the wonderful time together with our beautiful girls.

A big thank you to Sally for this great round-up. We hope her experience and tips help if you are planning a trip with your minis anytime soon. We have definitely made note of a few. If you are planning a holiday with minis, or have just returned home from one, please let us know about your experiences, we would love to hear from you…


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